Putting out a list of possible Supreme Court nominees was something done by Pres. Trump in 2016 to appeal to GOP conservatives who wanted reassurance that he would advance their interests if elected notwithstanding his long personal history of moving between parties and supporting liberal causes with contributions throughout his adult life.
He was assisted in putting together his list by the leadership of the Federalist Society, and the list reflected that fact. On the issue of judicial appointments Pres. Trump has made good on his pledge — not just with respect to the Supreme Court, but also with regard to naming seemingly reliable conservatives in record numbers to the Circuit Courts of Appeal.
Pres. Trump has added to his list of potential Supreme Court nominees, with his latest additions coming just two weeks ago.
In taking a look at the names on his lists, I see the following five individuals as being the most likely nominees — and all of them are women.
Judge Amy Coney Barrett, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
Joan Larsen, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
Alison Eid, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
Judge Diane Sykes, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
Judge Margaret Ryan, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces
Judge Amy Comey Barrett and Judge Diane Sykes are probably the two most well-known based on earlier coverage of them in the press connected to the nominations of Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch.
Judge Barrett is a practicing Roman Catholic, and mother of five biological children and two adopted children. At 47 years of age, she fits the profile of a nominee capable of spending 25+ years on the Court. She has an established track record as an Appeals Court Judge, and is viewed as a “textualist” and “originalist” in her jurisprudence on constitutional issues. She graduated first in her class from Notre Dame Law School, and eventually clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia. While a Professor at Notre Dame Law School, Barrett was among Pres. Trump’s earliest nominees to the Circuit Court in May 2017.
Judge Sykes has had the longest tenure on a Court of Appeals, having served on the Seventh Circuit for 17 years. She has amassed a significant judicial record in that regard, but the record is consistently conservative and she, therefore, is likely to be among the most reliable in terms of adding to the Supreme Court’s conservative membership. But, at 63 years old, she may not fit the profile of a potential nominee any longer.
Among the most interesting possibilities to me is Judge Margaret Ryan, now a “Senior” Judge for the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. She is “Senior” because terms on that court are limited to 15 years. But she is only 55 years old. She served 11 years active duty with the US Marine Corps and was nominated to the Court of Appeals by Pres. Bush in 2004. More significantly, however, she served as a law clerk for the highly influential Fourth Circuit Court Judge J. Michael Luttig and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Both Judge Larsen and Judge Eid were nominated to the Appeals Courts by Pres. Trump. Judge Larsen was previously a Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, and Judge Eid was a Justice on the Colorado Supreme Court. I don’t think either stands out above the top 3, but they are potential picks.
I know there is some sentiment for picking a minority female, but I don’t see a standout among the potential choices on the President’s lists. One who I have seen mentioned is Judge Barbara Lagoa of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, a Cuban-American born in Miami. She was a state appeals court judge in Florida for over a decade and was briefly on the Florida Supreme Court before being nominated by Pres. Trump to the Eleventh Circuit. She also served as an Assistant United States Attorney in Miami before becoming a state appeals court judge.
I suspect Pres. Trump will pick Judge Barrett over Judge Sykes based on their ages, but Judge Ryan is the “dark horse” surprise candidate who might be difficult for the Democrats to mount a meaningful defense against on substance.